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Towards chirality control of graphene nanoribbons embedded in hexagonal boron nitride


The integrated in-plane growth of graphene nanoribbons (GNRs) and hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) could provide a promising route to achieve integrated circuitry of atomic thickness. However, fabrication of edge-specific GNRs in the lattice of h-BN still remains a significant challenge. Here we developed a two-step growth method and successfully achieved sub-5-nm-wide zigzag and armchair GNRs embedded in h-BN. Further transport measurements reveal that the sub-7-nm-wide zigzag GNRs exhibit openings of the bandgap inversely proportional to their width, while narrow armchair GNRs exhibit some fluctuation in the bandgap-width relationship. An obvious conductance peak is observed in the transfer curves of 8- to 10-nm-wide zigzag GNRs, while it is absent in most armchair GNRs. Zigzag GNRs exhibit a small magnetic conductance, while armchair GNRs have much higher magnetic conductance values. This integrated lateral growth of edge-specific GNRs in h-BN provides a promising route to achieve intricate nanoscale circuits.

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Fig. 1: Synthetic strategy of oriented GNRs embedded in h-BN.
Fig. 2: Edge-specific nano-trenches and GNRs embedded in top layer of h-BN.
Fig. 3: Electronic transport through GNR devices on h-BN.
Fig. 4: Field-effect and magneto-electrical properties in relatively wide GNRs in h-BN.

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Data availability

The data represented in Figs. 3 and 4 are provided with the paper as source data. All other data that support results in this Article are available from the corresponding authors on reasonable request. Source data are provided with this paper.


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H.W. and X.X. thank J.H. Edgar (Kansas State University, USA) for supplying the partial h-BN crystals. H. S. Wang, L. Chen and H. Wang thank M. Liu, X. Qiu and J. Pan from NCNT of China, F. Liou, H. Tsai, M. Crommie from UCB, USA, J. Xue and P. Yu from ShanghaiTech University and S. Wang from SJTU for nc-AFM measurement. H. S. Wang, L. Chen and H. Wang thank B. Sun and S. Li from Hunan University for the fusion of the STEM image and the electron energy loss spectroscopy mapping images. Funding: The work was partially supported by the National Key R&D program (Grant No. 2017YFF0206106), the Strategic Priority Research Program of Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. XDB30000000), the National Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 51772317, 51302096, 61774040, 91964102), the Science and Technology Commission of Shanghai Municipality (Grant No. 16ZR1442700, 16ZR1402500 18511110700), Shanghai Rising-Star Program (A type) (Grant No.18QA1404800), the Hubei Provincial Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. ZRMS2017000370), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2017M621563, 2018T110415), and the Fundamental Research Funds of Wuhan City (No. 2016060101010075). C.L. acknowledges support from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grants No. 656378 – Interfacial Reactions. T.J.P. acknowledges funding from European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement no. ~655760–DIGIPHASE. K.W. and T.T. acknowledge support from the Elemental Strategy Initiative conducted by the MEXT, Japan and the CREST (JPMJCR15F3), JST. C.X.C. acknowledges financial support from the National Young 1000 Talent Plan of China and the National Key R&D Program of China (No. 2018YFA0703700). L.H. acknowledges financial support from the programme of China Scholarships Council (No. 201706160037).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations



H.W. and X.X. directed the research work. H.W. conceived and designed the research. L.H., H.S.W. and C.C. performed the etching processes on h-BN. T.W. suggested the use of platinum as the cutting particle. L.C. and C.J. performed the growth experiments for the GNRs. L.C., C.C., C.J. and H.S.W. performed the AFM measurements. H.S.W. fabricated the electronic devices and performed the transport measurements. C.X.C. performed the Raman measurements. K.E., C.L., T.J.P., G.A. and J.C.M. carried out the STEM measurements. K.W. and T.T. fabricated the h-BN crystals. W.W. and Q.Y. performed the thermodynamic simulation for h-BN edges and GNR growth. H.W., H.S.W., L.C., J.C.M., K.E., L.H. and C.X.C. analysed the experimental data and designed the figures. H.W., H.S.W. and J.C.M. co-wrote the manuscript, and all authors contributed to critical discussions of the manuscript.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Haomin Wang or Jannik C. Meyer.

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Extended data

Extended Data Fig. 1 AFM investigation on h-BN nano-trenches obtained via nickel and platinum nano-particle etching.

a, AFM friction image of zigzag oriented trenches produced by nickel particles. The trenches exhibit about -30°, 30° or 90° with respect to h-BN wrinkles which are armchair oriented. The green dash line represents a trench orientation while the white dash line denotes a wrinkle orientation. Inset is a zoom-in view of the selected region in-lattice-resolution, confirming that the trenches are along the zigzag direction. The lattice-resolution AFM friction image is Fourier filtered for clarity. b, Occurrences of all trenches obtained via nickel assisted etching versus their azimuthal angle. Histogram shows that three specific angles (-30°, 30°and 90°) are preferred. It indicates that zigzag direction dominates in the trenches etched by Ni nanoparticles. c, AFM friction image of armchair oriented trenches on h-BN cut by platinum particles. The trenches exhibit about -60°, 0° or 60° with respect to the h-BN wrinkles. The green dash line represents a trench orientation while the white dash line denotes a wrinkle orientation. Inset is a zoom-in view of the selected region shown in (c), showing Fourier filtered lattice-resolution AFM friction image, confirming that the trenches are along the armchair direction. d, Occurrences of all trenches obtained via platinum assisted etching versus their azimuthal angle. Histogram shows three specific angles (-60°, 0°and 60°) are preferred by the Pt assisted etching. It means that armchair orientation dominates in all trenches etched by Pt nanoparticles.

Extended Data Fig. 2 High resolution analysis of ZZ-oriented nano-trenches and ZGNRs embedded in h-BN lattices.

a-d, AFM height images of mono-layered ZZ-oriented nano-trenches in h-BN surface by Ni particle-catalyzed cutting. The scale bars are 500, 100, 100 and 200 nm, respectively. The circular inset in (a) shows an atomic-resolution friction image of the h-BN. All the trenches are found along ZZ direction. b,c, show nano-trenches narrower than 5 nm. d, For a ~ 78 nm-wide trench, the depth profile shows that etching occurs only at the top layer of h-BN substrate. e-h, AFM height images of GNRs embedded in the ZZ-oriented nano-trenches. The width of ZGNRs is less than 10 nm. The scale bars are 500, 200, 100 and 100 nm, respectively. i, A STEM MAADF-α×HAADF image for a ZGNR sample. The scale bar is 200 nm. j, A zoomed-in MAADF image of a region shown in the middle of white dashed frame in (i). The scale bar is 10 nm. k, A Wiener-filtered MAADF image of the region shown in the dashed frame in j, The STEM investigation indicates that the boundaries between GNR and h-BN can be distinguished with a scale bar of 2 nm. The measured in-plane width of the GNR is ~3.2 nm.

Extended Data Fig. 3 High-resolution characterization of AC-oriented nano-trenches and AGNRs embedded in h-BN trenches.

a-d, AFM height images of mono-layered AC-oriented trenches obtained via Pt particle-assisted etching. The scale bars are 500, 100, 100 and 50 nm, respectively. The inset circular in (a) shows atomic-resolution friction image of h-BN. The white hexagons in the inset help with the identification of the atomic structure of GNR. All the trenches are found along AC directions. The width of the trench is less than 5 nm. d, shows an AC-oriented trench in width of ~23 nm, the profile of the depth indicates that etching occurs only at the top layer of h-BN surface. e-h, AFM height images of AGNRs embedded in the AC nano-trenches. The scale bars are 500, 200, 100 and 100 nm, respectively. The width of AGNRs is less than 10 nm. i, STEM-MAADF images of an AGNR sample. j, The magnified image of the AGNR area pointed to by the arrow in i, and the two dashed lines show the boundary between h-BN and AGNR. The scale bar in (i) is 100 nm and in (j) is 3 nm. The width of the GNR is ~5.3 nm. k, The fast Fourier transform (FFT) image for (j), indicating that the GNR is along the AC lattice direction.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Supplementary text, Figs. 1–39 and Tables 1 and 2.

Source data

Source Data Fig. 3

Experimental data points of Fig. 3a–f.

Source Data Fig. 4

Experimental data points of Fig. 4a–f.

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Wang, H.S., Chen, L., Elibol, K. et al. Towards chirality control of graphene nanoribbons embedded in hexagonal boron nitride. Nat. Mater. 20, 202–207 (2021).

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